A Los Angeles-to-Tampa flight was diverted to Albuquerque early this morning with a passenger who allegedly threatened to blow up the aircraft and attempted to open the main cabin door was subdued by the crew and fellow passengers.
Kevin Kennedy, the Sirius-XM radio host and former Dodgers pre- and post-game analyst for Prime Ticket, was on the flight and involved in the effort to restrain the passenger.
The former Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox manager, currently working as a Tampa Bay Rays’ broadcaster, went on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM with colleagues Jim Bowden and Casey Stern to discuss the incident today, a transcript provided by Sirius XM:
Kennedy: “The guy was serious. He said, ‘I’m gonna blow this plane up. I’m serious about it. I’m gonna take you all down with me.’ So we thought, number one, he had a bomb on him, whether it be a homemade or whatever. So we had to make a quick decision and as soon as he started to go for the door – he said, ‘I’m going to open this door and suck you all out’ – we charged. And we took him down and took him out and hog tied him and then put him in the front row and two guys had their feet on him while he was hog tied.
“I got in the front row as well and was right there with him. We eventually diverted to Albuquerque, 25 minutes away. The FBI, the police got him. The FBI came on and we had a 4-hour layover and the 8 of us that were involved in taking this guy down were asked to do an interrogation, which we did willfully of course. We’ll see what happens from there but it was surreal, Casey and Jim.
“I don’t wish that on anybody but I think you guys or any of us out there in the same situation probably would have done the same thing that the 8 guys involved in taking this guy out did.”
Bowden: “Was there much of a fight from him? Can you describe what he looked like? How long of a takedown was it?”
Kennedy: “He was a pretty big guy. We have his name, of course. It’s out there on the internet now. He’s 46 years old. I would say he was about 6-foot-plus, a good size, well over 200 pounds. And, I mean, he was strong. I tell you there were a couple of younger guys, younger than I, that were on top of him as well and they were having a tough time keeping him down. I had his left arm. Let me tell you, Jim, how strong he was. He broke the first set of handcuffs behind his back that we got locked on him, those plastic tie ones that the airlines have.
“Fortunately they had a another set and we then got our belts off, we used the seatbelts, and we got his hands finally tied behind his back. And then we got his legs tied hog-style. That was the only way to keep him down. But he was strong. He was a tough fight. You’re talking several guys on him to put him down. He just had that adrenaline from whatever the reason was. I’m not going to speculate on that. But it was not an easy takedown, let’s put it that way.”
According to the Associated Press report, the passenger, Stanley Dwayne Sheffield, on Delta flight 2148 sprayed the first-class cabin with a water bottle and tried to open a cabin door.
“We all kind of looked at him. The guy next to me, he was saying ‘Hey buddy, let’s calm down here.’ We tried to talk him down but it wasn’t happening. It was actually getting worse,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy was asleep when the ruckus awoke him.
“Then I hear in loud voices some guy talking about Satan and death,” he said. “I can hear the flight attendant, a lady who was a little bit nervous. It woke me up and I was wide awake immediately. I see this guy and he was crossing himself and flipping water around, talking about Satan. As I looked around, other guys (in first class) were kind of waking up.”
FBI Supervisory Special Agent Darrin Jones said authorities do not believe the incident was related to terrorism.
Sheffield was charged with interference with flight crew members and destruction of aircraft.
The flight to Tampa resumed at 4 a.m.
Susan Elliott, a spokeswoman at Delta’s headquarters in Atlanta, said the aircraft, an Airbus A320, and its 100 passengers and seven crew members never were in jeopardy.
“It is impossible to open a cabin door during flight because of the pressurization of the aircraft,” she said.
Kennedy said a conversation he had with the passenger next to him even before the flight left L.A. turned out to be foretelling.
“We actually talked about being aware of this kind of stuff. That’s what is eerie about it. We talked about it,” he said.
Kennedy hosts “Power Alley,” weekdays (7 to 11 a.m.) on MLB Network Radio, available on XM channel 175 and Sirius channel 210.